A first: Vocational Focus of Chongqing Delegation
The Wales-Chongqing Further Education Consortium, led by CollegesWales with eleven of Wales’ colleges in membership, was launched in October 2011 by Wales’ First Minister the Rt Hon Carwyn Jones.
In December 2012, just over a year after the Consortium first set foot in Chongqing, we were delighted to be able to host a senior level delegation to Wales, led by the Chongqing Education Commission of Sha Pingba District. It was the first official delegation from Chongqing to focus on vocational education.
Mr Li, a senior official from Chongqing Education Commission of Sha Pingba District and the delegation leader, said:
“The importance of this visit at governmental level is demonstrated by the inclusion of a number of senior representatives from a government agency and the seniority of the education leaders in the delegation.”
In five days of their busy schedule, the Chinese delegation learned about the post-16 education system in Wales at CollegesWales, visited four further education colleges and one school, and also met Wales’ Education Minister, Leighton Andrews, to discuss Welsh Government education policies.
Continuous professional development & pedagogy
Since the visit, the delegation has continued to develop relationships with the Wales-Chongqing FE Consortium. Meetings with Grace Tan, the Consortium’s representative in Chongqing, are helping to scope out the next steps.
Continuous professional development of Chongqing’s teachers appears to be high on the list. The Consortium is looking forward to welcoming a group of teachers to one of the member colleges of the Consortium, Ystrad Mynach College, in February 2013. Significantly, the group has a vocational focus. Hospitality and Catering is the vocational area under consideration, and their agenda focuses on pedagogy.
Indeed, pedagogy and the development of teachers’ skills are emerging as common themes for further exploration more widely. Coinciding with the visit to Wales last month was a visit by four of the Consortium’s member colleges from Wales to Chonqging. Staff and learners from Wales had a packed programme that took in vocational studies as well as cultural experiences.
From the teachers’ perspective, pedagogy was a highlight. As part of the structured agenda, the designated leader of the Wales group, Al Kousaros, Management and Business Lecturer and Course Tutor at Ystrad Mynach College, led a particularly well-received pedagogy session for around 100 Chinese teachers. Indeed, they are keen to see him back in Chongqing for more pedagogical insight and to further develop the relationship.
Growing relationships, developing skills
The interest shown by Chongqing in vocational skills is growing: not only for their technical schools, but also more widely in the education sector. The Chongqing delegation to Wales included primary and secondary teachers as well as vocational managers and senior officials. They, too, are keen to engage with the vocational agenda via a focus on skills pedagogy.
In the words of delegation leader Mr Li, speaking about the visit to Wales:
“We have been delighted to have had an insight into the strong quality assurance systems that exist in the further education colleges. In addition, we have been particularly interested to see how teaching and learning interact and how staff support learners, both to develop their skills and also to help them in their personal, social and cultural development.”
Of course, Wales and China come from very different traditions and cultures and language issues are also a factor. It takes time to develop meaningful relationships and to understand where the mutual areas of maximum benefit lie. But the Consortium has made a solid start. Relationships are developing well and priorities are emerging. Exchanges and projects are coming forward.
Bryn Davies, Chairman of the Wales-Chongqing Further Education Consortium and Principal of Ystrad Mynach College, the key organising partner in Wales for the December visit, said:
“I am delighted to have presided over a highly successful official delegation from China organised by the Wales-Chongqing Further Education Consortium. It was the first visit to focus on vocational education, and the seniority of the delegation members signals that vocational education links with Wales are being taken seriously at a governmental level.
“Through CollegesWales, the Wales-Chongqing Further Education Consortium, and other partners, Wales’ colleges are making good use of opportunities to make strategic links with important emerging economies. Together, we are seeking creative solutions to improving quality and driving up skills.”